Governor: Redistricting Reform Deal Still Possible

Posted March 2, 2007 at 4:15pm

Redistricting reform is far from dead and a deal with Democratic legislative leaders on a remap plan could be announced soon, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said this week while in Washington, D.C.

Schwarzenegger said overhauling how California draws its House districts “absolutely” remains a priority for him. The governor, elected to a second term in November, said he is working with Democratic and Republican leaders of his state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature, and hopes the negotiations will yield an agreement soon.

“We are working on that right now,” Schwarzenegger said Tuesday while speaking to reporters in the Capitol. “As a matter of fact, I think within the next few weeks we will have a proposal.”

Since winning a recall election in 2003, Schwarzenegger has lamented the effects of political gerrymandering on California’s Congressional districts, saying they create officeholders who are more interested in playing politics than in compromising for the common good.

His solution has been to take the power to draw House district boundaries out of the hands of the Legislature, in favor of a nonpartisan commission. His first crack at that goal failed, when a proposed state constitutional amendment he pushed for was defeated by the voters in a 2005 special election.

A similar plan that was backed by Schwarzenegger — and that had the nominal support of Democratic legislative leaders — died last year in the Legislature. His latest attempt also could find rough-going, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) and leading California Democrats helped bankroll the successful campaign to defeat his 2005 measure, and there is no sign that their opposition has abated.

California’s House Republicans also are largely opposed to redistricting reform, and are likely to sit on their hands at best if Schwarzenegger succeeds in bringing another proposed state constitutional amendment to the ballot. Rep. Kevin McCarthy is one of the few Golden State Republicans who is likely to support redistricting reform if it goes before the voters.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that his recent push for “post-partisanship” should not be interpreted as a sign that he will not aggressively support GOP candidates and raise money for Republicans this election cycle.

The governor said his call for politicians to move beyond party loyalties and work together is meant to apply after an election is over. It is at that point that the Democrats and Republicans who won the election should emphasize working together over political gain.

“It’s very important that you never misunderstand what I’m saying,” Schwarzenegger said.

“I always said you don’t have to give up your ideology, and believing in what you believe in,” he continued. “I can still help some Republicans to get elected, someone else can still help a Democrat to get elected. But when they are elected, they should always remember that the ultimate principle is [that we] are a public servant and not a party servant.”

— David M. Drucker